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De två saliga (The Blessed Ones)

Posted by martinteller on January 16, 2015

Sune Burman (Per Myrberg) meets Viveka (Harriet Andersson) in the Uppsala cathedral.  They hit it off, united in their doubts about their faith, and marry.  Seven years later, Viveka is losing her grasp on reality.  She’s plagued by jealous fantasies of Sune having an affair with the blonde at the local store… or with her own sister, Annika (Christina Schollin).  As Vivieka’s paranoid delusions expand to include a mysterious “them” pouring arsenic through the ceiling and electricity through the walls, Sune indulges her, clinging to the belief that “love conquers all”.

But of course, this is Bergman, and love does not conquer all.  Certainly not such extreme madness.  Nearly three decades earlier, Andersson played Karin in Through a Glass Darkly… a young woman whose mental disorder gives her a fear of God, calling him a “spider”.  Her family acknowledges their inability to help her.  Here Andersson’s character is much further down the road of insanity, seemingly beyond help.  And Sune follows her down the rabbit hole.  Happy wife, happy life, right?  Not so much.

It’s an incredibly bleak film, even for Bergman.  Yet even at his bleakest, he usually musters up some bit of hope, some reason to love his characters.  In this case, it feels more nihilistic.  It’s hard to see any possibility of hope for these two.  Love cannot stand up to everything, Annika warns Viveka.  Is Sune’s mistake giving his love unconditionally?  Is he just loving her the wrong way?  I can’t really tell what Bergman is driving at, which is the film’s primary weakness.  It comes off like an exercise in bummerness.  Perhaps the problem is that it’s not his script.  It was written by Ulla Isaksson, adapted from her own novel (she also wrote The Virgin Spring and Brink of Life).  The writing sometimes is just crazy person being crazy, lacking in any resonant insight.

Andersson and Myrberg are excellent, however, giving the movie (made for television) a compelling power.  The film is at its best when it concentrates on the dysfunctional, sometimes horrifying interaction between Sune and Viveka.  Rating: Good (75)


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